By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 6:44pm Wed 19 Nov 2014, 6:44pm
Hundreds of people have gathered to protest council amalgamations at parliament house this evening.
The Liberals and the Nationals in Western Australia appear to be a step closer to healing their rift over council mergers.
Cabinet has ticked off on new legislation that will encourage regional local governments to share resources and services, something the Nationals have been pushing for some time.
The issue of council mergers has long caused tension between the Liberals and Nationals, who are in an alliance in Government together.
The Nationals have already withdrawn their support for Government plans to almost halve the number of metropolitan councils after they became concerned country councils would be next on the chopping board.
The three Nationals ministers even sat out of recent Cabinet discussions on new metropolitan council boundaries.
But now it appears the Liberals are extending an olive branch and have agreed to introduce the legislation the Nationals have long been lobbying for.
It is understood it was approved by Cabinet on Monday.
The ABC understands the legislation will closely mirror a private member’s bill that Nationals MP Shane Love introduced into Parliament in June.
At the time it was introduced, Nationals leader Terry Redman said Local Government Minister Tony Simpson had refused to bring their new legislation in as a Government bill.
The ABC has been told the new Government legislation will allow two or more local governments to establish a subsidiary to jointly undertake and deliver a variety of works and service activities.
It is not expected to expressly protect regional shires from forced mergers.
Neither Liberal nor Nationals MPs have yet been briefed on the full details of the new legislation.
It is expected to go before the Liberal party room next week before being introduced to Parliament.
Political analyst Peter Kennedy said Labor had been able to capitalise on the tension in the alliance over mergers, and the move could be about trying to settle differences before the 2017 state election.
“I think the Liberal Party would be very keen to diffuse the issue over amalgamation, especially in country areas, well in advance of the next election,” he said.
“The Nationals are a key part of the alliance and although they have a certain degree of independence, compared to previous years, their vote is very important so the Government, and particularly Mr Barnett, would be very keen to keep them on side.”
By Jessica Strutt
Posted yesterday at 6:23pmTue 18 Nov 2014, 6:23pm
Ratepayers converge on WA Parliament Ratepayers have taken their petitions opposing the council merger process to Parliament. (ABC News: Jessica Strutt)
Ratepayers have converged on Western Australia’s Parliament to present petitions demanding a say on planned council mergers.
The Government is slashing the number of councils in metropolitan Perth from 30 to 16, but only residents in six council areas will be able to vote on the mergers.
A combination of amalgamations and boundary adjustments is being used to cut the number of councils.
Only councils being amalgamated get to vote on the process, but the Government has refused to explain on what basis it was decided which councils will be merged using boundary adjustments, and which will be joined using amalgamations.
Residents in a number of disaffected local governments have organised petitions with thousands of signatures demanding the right to hold a Dadour poll.
Save Serpentine Jarrahdale group’s Jackie Dines said her group had attracted 500 signatures from local residents in one week.
“In the community nobody wants to see their local government area be renamed,” she said.
“At the very least give us our democratic right to have a vote on what happens, [but] they’re not doing that.”
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan accepted the petitions outside Parliament after Local Government Minister Tony Simpson refused to do so.
Mr McGowan said the Government’s process was “a dog’s breakfast” and was disempowering ratepayers.
“The Government has ignored community views and wishes,” he said.
“This is the Premier and the Liberal Party running roughshod over local communities.
“We live in a democratic state and the Premier and the Liberal Party are ignoring basic democratic principles and that’s pretty shameful.”
Quizzed about whether he would grant ratepayers in all local governments access to a poll, Premier Colin Barnett indicated he would not.
“That’s not the law, and what we have said is we have accepted the recommendation as to the structure of local government,” he said.
“We will proceed progressively one by one and I think in time, most local governments will agree.
“This is some sort of rearguard action to stop a modern, functional system of local government for younger generations and generations to follow.”
Residents in the City of Kwinana, which the Government plans to merge with the City of Cockburn, are entitled to vote because their local government is being amalgamated.
At a special meeting today, Kwinana Council voted unanimously to support its community to hold a poll on the proposed amalgamation.
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said the decision was made after about 500 signatures were collected in favour of residents having access to a poll.
She estimated the cost to ratepayers of the poll would be $50,000.
“We resolved it’s not in the best overall interest of the Kwinana community that we amalgamate because of the high transition costs, no additional funding on offer from the Government and no ward representation,” she said.
The choice is YOURS!
Residents of the City of South Perth – Have your say…
INVEST IN SOUTH PERTH OR AN AMERICAN CARTOON – YOU BE THE JUDGE
Come to a meeting of the City of South Perth Residents’ Association
7:00pm Thursday 27 November 2014
Como Bowling Club, Hensman Street, South Perth
GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES HAVE BEEN INVITED